24 September, 2012

London Open House weekend

Almost missed this in the excitement that surrounds summer and such a wet day on Sunday. However I still managed some places on Saturday and today. First up - Caroline Gardens Chapel which was the chapel of the former Licensed Victuallers Benevolent Association almshouses in Camberwell.   The Licensed VIctuallers moved out in 1959 and the estate was sold to the Camberwell Metropolitan Borough Council for use as social housing. The chapel fell into decay and is not much more than a hollow shell although some good stained glass and monuments remain. Photobucket Photobucket Next up was St Giles Camberwell, a church built to replace an earlier one destroyed by fire by George Gilbert Scott in a very pure gothic style. The beautiful Victorian window positively gleams in the morning sunlight. After the war work was carried out by Sir Ninian Comper (satirised by Osbert Lancaster as Sir Septimus Ogive who died of apoplexy after his design for an Early Gothic airport was rejected by the council). PICT4263_zps73a20330 The Fire Brigade Museum was worth visiting - once - and the rooms lived in by Captain Shaw (of Iolanthe fame) were on display although they are not usually open.   The museum is housed in two late Georgian terraced houses.Photobucket The Cinema Museum in the old Lambeth Workhouse where pictures were permitted but filming was forbidden was also a point of call.  The Museum was in the administrative block of the former workhouse.  I actually used to work in Lambeth Hospital (which the workhouse became but this has now been demolished and luxury flats built on the site.  Photobucket I also called at The Siobahn Davies Dance Studio. No pics sorry but quite a nice space with a wiggly roof.  And that's all you can say about it really - it has a big room and a bigger room.
Morley College has murals from the 1960s in the canteen based on the Canterbury tales.  This picture shows the mural based on the Miller's tale Photobucket On a very wet Sunday I visited the East London Central Synagogue in Nelson Street Whitechapel where the President gave us a wide ranging talk on the history of the synagogue and judaism in general. I was glad to be wearing a hat. The Synagogue had been built in an archaic style in 1923 and we even got to see the inside of the ark. Photobucket Limehouse Town Hall has seen better days with ivy growing over the windows and into the gents toilet.  I also went to the Limehouse accumulator tower and had a long lecture on the use of hydraulics and the power of water, somewhat ironically in the pouring rain. Both me and my companion were losing the will to live by this point. When we went up the tower it was good to get a new perspective on Limehouse. All in all not the best open house weekend I've had but a good one in a summer that has been rather overshadowed by other events.


I don't normally big up other people's content but the people at Urbanvox have posted a great video of the river cruise and bridge illuminations. It's all here.  I may even appear in it as head shadow...

23 September, 2012

Chester - Ghoulies and Ghosties

More from Chester, this time taking a midnight (OK eight o'clock) ghost walk. The tourist information centre sold us the leaflet, which advises you not to do the walk at night. We are hardier souls. And it seems the Tourist Information Centre also has a ghost! The store room beneath the external processional staircase houses something nasty - allegedly. Could be anyone as the town hall was built on the site of the legionary fortress of Romman times. Also Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were held in the cells awaiting trial at the Chester Asizes - oh right only Ms Hindley is dead. Next up on the tour the Coach and Horses where a ghost allegedly walked in ordered a pint and told the barmaid his life story, particularly that his wife had just died. The barmaid checked the story when the man, who had engaged a room, failed to return that night and found his wife had died 8 years earlier and the husband had joined her a week later. But how did he drink his pint? The First pic shows the Blue Bell Inn, first licensed in 1494. I couldn't see a ghostly serving wench in the upper window but I wonder if any of you, dear readers, can? The camera never lies... The tour carries on past the Cathedral Churchyard and onto the city walls. This next picture shows Eastgate Street where three old women foretold the death of Princess Diana ten hours before the newsflash. Now I've heard and have experience that the pensioner grapevine is fast and accurate (my gran told me that 5p pieces were going to be the size of silver 3d bits and she died in 1987) but ten hours before the news? Goodness! This next picture is just a gratuitous night shot of the Eastgate. The walk takes us up to St John's church. Thi church has ruins attached that had a light show playing when we called. Chester Council can put it better than I can: "Multimedia artist Nayan Kulkarni has been commissioned by Cheshire West and Chester Council's Arts and Festivals and Museum Service, and Chester Renaissance to transform the eastern ruins of St John the Baptist church using light. The new artwork will illuminate the ruins with a set of computer controlled architectural scale monochrome projections. Using a specially designed light system the final artwork will be a composition that changes over time constantly remodelling the appearance of the ruins." And very nice too. It was on the ghost walk because of this extraordinary coffin built into the roof space. It's said because a nun wanted to be closer to heaven The walk took us down to the river and back up through some medieval streets including one so steep that there were steps to get up it, and then up to the town cross where the walk finished. A very pleasant, interesting perambulation. Did we see anything unusual or spooky? What do you think, gentle reader?

17 September, 2012

Chester: Meadieval Town

Chester Cathedral is a cathedral of the new foundation which means that Henry VIII closed down the Benedictine monastery in the church at Chester and instituted a new cathedral there with a new bishop to head the diocese.  The Cathedral does charge for admission but this includes a rather temperamental audio guide which works when you approach green pillars in the building. One memorial is to the crew of HMS Chester, which included a ships boy, John Cornwell, killed at the battle of Jutland. There are memorial cottages to John Cornwell at Hornchurch. In the cloisters stands a sculpture by Stephen Broadbent. The Water of Life is set in a fish pond and is shown in the picture below. The medieval town walls stand on Roman foundations, and the old Roman moat was turned into a canal at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These are some of the oldest surviving town walls. The picture shows the deep gorge the canal runs through. The canal makes a pleasant walk back to my hotel, which was on the canalside.

13 September, 2012

Chester walls and rows

Chester is a fine Cathedral city at the end of the Wirral Peninsular.  One of the many attractions of the city is the old city wall, some of it dating back to Roman times.  The walls were maintained originally by Murrengers, although I don't suppose they actually did the bricklaying and stone work.  We met a murrenger before in Newport, although there are few walls left there.
Chester's walls were converted into a dignified promenade in the eighteenth century and it is possible to walk round the walls today.  For the last Diamond Jubilee, Queen Victoria's, the townspeople erected a clock above the Eastgate, and it stands there to this day.  The walk round the walls takes a couple of hours, if you take it slowly, and takes in the best sights in the town including the Cathedral and the racecourse beside the River Dee.     Chester is also famous for the meadieval layout of its shopping centre with some shops in cellars and a public walkway above so you can walk in shelter during rainstorms.  I have never seen an equivalent anywhere else as old.  Most of the shops are 19th century but the model had been there since the meadieval times, and are estimated to have been completed by 1350.  They are very pretty with a lot of half timbered buildings and some in stone and concrete from the mid part of the twentieth century, but I would not like to be the lawyer dealing with the tenure of these buildings.

Preston Guild

They say that in the North West of England the phrase 'once in a Preston guild' is the same as saying 'once in a blue moon for the rest of us.  I don't know if that is true as I come from a more easterly part of the country.  However I can say that Preston guild comes round every twenty years and the extraordinary summer of 2012 is a Preston Guild year. 

Me and my beloved enjoyed the vintage weekend and the food festival. We also enjoyed seeing the Human League and Blancmange in concert.  I watched the parade of guildspeople as they processed into the charter theatre on the Monday morning together with a civic procession involving mace bearers or halberdiers, and I think a silver oar made an appearance in the procession.  I didn't have a programme but there may have been pensioners from the almshouses in green robes.  There was certainly a brass band.